Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New songs for Sept. 29th, 2010

here they are!

"My Time" by Minus the Bear: What can I say? Some indie bands are good at simultaneously pulling off a cool song with a cool music video to go with it!! "My Time" by Minus the Bear is one such song! The psychedelic rainbow imagery of the video tends to synch up well with the Gnarls Barkley-meets-MGMT feel of the music. "My Time" has enough of a groovy electro-pop feel in its music to land it a spot on a car commercial (it's probably already been on one, though it's hard for me to say since I don't watch much TV these days). The music video will probably become a "viral video" on YouTube if it hasn't already. To sum it all up, "My Time" is gonna go somewhere, I can just feel it!

"National Ransom" by Elvis Costello: The "other Elvis" seemed like he almost had some sort of musical bipolarity in the '00s, switching off between awesomely spiteful indie rock numbers ("No Hiding Place", "Monkey to Man") and more low-key material with equally clever lyrics (most notably "Complicated Shadows"). So what's he up to this time?! He's decided to turn his amp up once again, folks!! Though one could probably tell quite easily from the production of the song that it's not one of his late '70s songs with The Attractions, it seemed like he tried to evoke that vibe with "National Ransom", with its electric guitars going face to face with the same organs he was famous for using on songs like "Radio Radio" and "Pump It Up". As one of the many "classic rock comebacks" of 2010, Elvis continues to stand out among them!

"Precious Stone" by Pete Yorn: Yorn's uniquely grunge-y brand of indie rock gets grungier than ever in this tune! The beginning of it almost sounds like a Pearl Jam song, as does the solo (which Pete Yorn typically doesn't have in his music!) "Precious Stone" might as well BE a Pearl Jam song in all but the vocals, which are uniquely Pete Yorn. But seriously, Yorn has even managed to capture the FEEL of a typical Pearl Jam number in "Precious Stone", with its lovesick, but somewhat sullen, achingly bittersweet vibe. To me, though, Yorn and Vedder are both masters in their own right, so "Precious Stone" is still a winner for me!

"Sick of You" by Cake: And speaking of Pearl you never thought Cake, who made two of the most enduring songs on alt-rock radio of the '90s ("The Distance" and "Never There") would come back after 2001. But...SURPRISE!!! They did! The same fun-loving, self-consciously goofy spirit Cake had in "The Distance", "Never There", and "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" can be found once again in "Sick of You". The organs, the pseudo-surf-turned-alt-rock guitar riffs, their trademark brass section, and of course, John McCrea's wry, detached sing-speak vocals and sarcastically quirky lyrics - it's all there!! Unfortunately, the "sing-speak" vocals don't come in until the later half of the song, but other than that, no complaints! This one's clearly a winner!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

new songs for Sept. 22nd, 2010

here they are!

"Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)" by Old '97s: "Alt-country" just seems to get a bit lackluster after awhile, as Wilco have demonstrated time and again with the more "experimental" side of their catalog. This time, the second best loved alt-country band, Old '97s, gets their Dramarama and Pixies on in this tune! Borrowing a beat from Dramarama's "Anything Anything" and chords from The Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man", fans of '80s "college rock" will probably take an immediate liking to this song! Rhett Miller and co. truly have a well-crafted, fun song on their hands with this one! As many of the best Lou Reed and T. Rex songs can demonstrate (this song sounds a little similar to both, in my opinion), any homage to "classic alternative" doesn't have to be unsteady "experimental" noise-fests a la Sonic Youth (even SY THEMSELVES had somewhat catchy tunes on occasion like "Kool Thing" and "Bull In the Heather") to get the crunchy, angst-y feel across to its listeners. This song is just 3 or so minutes of pure bliss and I love it!

"Father's Son" by Fistful of Mercy: Are "indie supergroups" a trend all of a sudden? It would appear so, with Monsters of Folk (Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward), and Tired Pony (R.E.M., Belle and Sebastian, Snow Patrol). Let's now welcome the latest addition, Fistful of Mercy, onto the bandwagon, which features contemporary music connoisseur Ben Harper, indie-folk-rocker Joseph Arthur, and George Harrison's son Dhani. I don't know who out of the three of them leads this group, but in "Father's Son", it would most likely be Ben Harper, for its bluesy-folk sound that seems to be somewhat common in Harper's catalog. This mostly acoustic song is a fun, "clap-along" number that would be neat to sing around a campfire while toasting marshmallows and (as Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame once said) "delicious hot 'shmoes'"! I would also suspect that at least one (if not all) of the members of Fistful of Mercy have been listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as this song easily reminds me of all the songs of theirs that have gotten attention on adult alt. radio stations ("Ain't No Easy Way", "Shuffle Your Feet", "Beat the Devil's Tattoo").

"Walk With Me" by Neil Young: Funny I mentioned Lou Reed and Sonic Youth earlier in this week's post, as this song kinda sounds like BOTH of them (particularly Lou Reed)!
Though this song is getting airplay on what appears to be the "softer" side of contemporary rock stations, don't let that fool you! This is one hard-rockin' song! (and it doesn't need drums or bass to back it up, either!) This plays out like an outtake from The Velvet Underground's second album (the one with "White Light/White Heat", among others), and specifically an awful lot like The Velvets' "I Heard Her Call My Name", a song with ear-splitting feedback which Lou Reed starts as a conventional rock song, and then pretty much destroys the tune of afterwards. Though Neil Young's "Walk With Me" doesn't go THAT extreme, it comes close. It, too, starts out as a "conventional" rock song, but about 2 minutes into it, things start to get a little weird! The final moments of the song just seem to be electric guitar feedback that doesn't know whether to be beautiful or noisy. What would you expect, however, with Young's latest album being titled "Le Noise"?!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Eleven songs?!? THIS is gonna be GOOD!!! Here they are:

"Boy" by Ra Ra Riot: This song has done two fantastic things for me! First of all, it's keeping the uniquely quirky new wave influenced indie sound of bands like Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and Phoenix alive and well, but it also has an incredible music video. Why? 'Cuz it has KITTIES!! (I'm a cat lover, so please bear with me here). An orange tabby cat (and his orange tabby cat friends, or perhaps clones of his) appear on and off throughout the video, and during the chorus, their eyes glow in the dark to make one giant cat's eye! As if that wasn't neat enough, the instrumentation in "Boy" is also very well-crafted. Unlike the typical Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, or Phoenix song, this song does NOT start out with a guitar, but rather a new wave-y keyboard sound backed up by a loud, thumping bass. The guitar comes in during the chorus, as does some random orchestral instrumentation (Arcade Fire, anyone?) There's also a brief guitar solo in this song as well. All in all, "Boy" is a very entertaining, catchy, and well-thought out piece of music.

"Buttercups" by Fran Healy: Make no mistake, "Fran" is not a girl's name in this case. It is, instead, the name of British indie-folk-rock band Travis's first name. "Buttercups" could easily be mistaken for a Travis song, rather than just one by the lead singer of the band, for its full-band instrumentation, passionate vocals, and wistful tones. Travis' songs typically have quirky lyrics and one-word titles (the most well-known being "Sing" and "Side"), and "Buttercups" continues in that tradition, of being both one word long and having charmingly unusual lyrics (The best one being, "If I had a diamond ring, I'd wear it through my nose". I'd like to see Fran Healy try to do THAT sometime!!)

"Coquet Coquette" by of Montreal: "Coquet Coquette"?!? Is there an echo in here, is there an echo in here?!? No, there isn't, it's just the title of of Montreal's latest tune that seems to be influenced largely by the "retro rock" sounds of such bands as The White Stripes and Muse. For of Montreal, I'm not sure if this shift in sound is a good thing or a bad thing. It's not like this is the first time the oddly named indie band has gotten attention, as "Wraith Pinned to the Mist And Other Tales" was featured in an Outback Steakhouse commercial, and they even did a children's song about brushing teeth for the neo-"Sesame Street"-ish kid's show "Yo Gabba Gabba" that received a fair amount of attention as well. However, both of those seemed more like psychedelic pop tunes than attempts to receive airplay on major alt/modern rock stations. "Coquet Coquette" still features the psychedelic element that is present on most of of Montreal's material, but it seems to be filtered through '70s classic rock a la Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, etc. the way that many of The White Stripes and Muse's material seems to be. Nevertheless, "Coquet Coquette" is still worth listening to. Oh, and one more thing, "coquette" is a term that basically means "flirt" and mainly applies to women (I believe of Montreal made up the counterpart term, "coquet", to add more flavor to the song).

"Indecision" by Steven Page: The former Barenaked Ladies member proves he still has the flair for catchy melodies and clever lyrics, even as a SOLO artist! Some feat for a man from a band that's been around for nearly 20 years!! Instrumentally, Page tweaks up his typical sound a bit (think "The Big Bang Theory" theme mixed with a Sergio Mendes tune!) Who would have thought he'd use Latin jazz-style instrumentation in the verses of "Indecision" and STILL sound good?! As in the usual BNL lyrical fashion, there are some witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics to be found in this song as well (like in the chorus, in which Page sings, "Then again, my addiction to indecision keeps me here"). "Addiction to indecision" sounds like it could function simultaneously as an oxymoron AND a tongue-twister. Some of my own poetry and music has a tendency to sprinkle in some wordplay like this does. What can I say, great minds think alike!

"Lasso" by Phoenix: If I had to describe Phoenix's music in one word, I'd choose the word "catchy". "1901" and "Lisztomania" have already been stuck in my head numerous times, and probably in the minds of many others as well since they both became massive hits! Though "Lasso" hasn't quite received the amount of attention that the aforementioned two songs have, I think it has the potential to do so sometime soon. It uses the basic Phoenix formula of danceable, stick-in-your-head song, easy to memorize chorus ("Where would you go, where would you go, would you go with a lasso?/Could you run into, could you run into, could you run into me?"), and quirky lyrics (see the chorus that I typed earlier in this sentence). "Lasso" also seems to be more straight-up rock music than the techno/rock hybrids that "1901" and "Lisztomania" ended up being. It has a sound that's probably comparable to bands like The Killers and the "edgier" side of Snow Patrol. Think of those two bands, backed by a consistently organized rhythm section, and add just a small dash of The Police's "Message In A Bottle", and you should have a pretty good idea of what "Lasso" sounds like!

"Paris (Ooh La La)" by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals: Grace Potter normally has a sound that might remind one of the organic, earthy country sounds of Lucinda Williams. This year, however, Grace and The Nocturnals proved they could rock out with the best of 'em, earlier this year with their cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", and now with the Lenny Kravitz-esque "Paris"! Perhaps Grace is trying TOO hard to let out her inner rock star with the lyrics of this song (i.e. "You got me up on your swing/So when you gonna shake that thing?", a BIG departure from the down-home-y, humble flavor of "Ah Mary", her debut single). However, "Paris" is a darn catchy song with guitar riffs that would make Jimi Hendrix proud! (Or at least entertained). And if Grace wants to be more of a Janis than a Lucinda, well then, she's found just the right sound to please my ears!!

"Radioactive" by Kings of Leon: Ever since their 2008 breakthrough record, "Only By the Night", all sides of the rock 'n' roll spectrum just couldn't seem to get enough of Kings of Leon. With their latest release, it's seems like KOL fever has only continued to rise, as it has received IMMEDIATE attention on the adult. alt charts, the "regular" alt charts, and the mainstream rock (combination of classic rock and "harder" modern rock) charts simultaneously!! So how does "Radioactive" measure up to the contagious melodies and hooks of "Sex On Fire", "Use Somebody", and "Notion"?! It could easily join the ranks of those songs for sure! (It already HAS on many rock stations of all kinds!!) However, a major difference between those songs and "Radioactive" is a shift in influence from '70s rock to '80s rock. "Radioactive" sounds like a mix of U2 and some of the more "spacey" David Bowie songs (i.e. "Ashes to Ashes"). Perhaps it doesn't matter what era of music KOL want to emulate, as long as their music is able to stick in the heads of millions of fans!!

"Spectacular Girl" by Eels: Despite their slimy name, Eels have a rather mellow sound for the most part, much like many of the songs Beck did in the 2000's. Sometimes it almost seems as though E (Eels' frontman, born Mark Oliver Everett) and Beck have composed songs cut from the same cloth (in fact "Spectacular Girl" reminds me a great deal of Beck's '08 hit, "Orphans"). Both "Orphans" and "Spectacular Girl" use electronic instruments in a soothing fashion, and add in more typically calming instruments, such as flutes, as the songs progress. Although "Spectacular Girl" is basically a Beck soundalike, it's still a great song to me, with its breezy, chillout vibe that I often crave in the songs I listen to to make me feel happy and satisfied inside!

"Witchcraft" by Matt Costa: Most people who are familiar with Matt Costa's music probably know him best for taking an indie rock approach to the "ultra-mellow" sounds of musicians like Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. However, Matt decided to trade in that mellow acoustic sound for some Donovan-esque psychedelia and turn up his amp on "Witchcraft"! Though Costa is not British, his voice (and a little bit of his music) sounds much like The Zombies' Colin Bluntstone, who is British, on this track. If Costa continues in this psychedelically influenced trend, he'll likely be remembered as a 21st century version of Donovan for going from folk-rock to psychedelia. Even the theme of this song tends to evoke Donovan somewhat ("Season of the Witch", anyone?!) Lyrically, it takes on the familiar '60s rock theme of singing about a girl who messes around with a guys emotions (so much so, in this song, that Matt Costa proclaims in the chorus that the girl in question "must be using witchcraft"). This song is an absolute must for any fans of The Zombies, Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, etc!

"Wrote A Song For Everyone" by Mavis Staples: The former '70s soul woman returns after many years with a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover! Staples seems to cover the CCR tune pretty accurately, to the point of which it SOUNDS like something CCR (or similar acts, like The Band) might have done, complete with a guitar solo! Her version actually seems more rock 'n' roll oriented, at times, than CCR's original version. It's neat to hear an early '70s musical icon covering yet another early '70s musical icon! I would love to know John Fogerty's reaction to Mavis Staples' version!

"You Can Dance" by Bryan Ferry: Before I begin, is it just me, or is it a bit odd that both of the leading musicians in Roxy Music were named "Brian"?! (the other being Brian Eno) The two of them are both fairly well-known both in Roxy Music and as solo performers in the music world, though Ferry went in more of a pop-oriented direction, and Eno in a more "experimental" one. Ferry continues doing the same "sophisticated" pop music he did with his biggest hit of the '80s, "Slave to Love" (in fact "Slave to Love" and "You Can Dance" actually sound quite similar). "Slave to Love" was probably a more compelling, seductive sort of song, but Ferry's attempts to repeat this on "You Can Dance" aren't bad. However, I would still recommend his older material much more than "You Can Dance".

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

new songs for Sept. 1st, 2010

four of 'em this time - enjoy!!

"Dead American Writers" by Tired Pony: What do you get when you mix Snow Patrol, R.E.M., and Belle and Sebastian in a blender (with Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody in the lead)? You get indie rock supergroup Tired Pony!! This is a group that combines alumni of the three aforementioned bands, and kinda sounds like all three of them as well! Their first single, "Dead American Writers" takes the typical "twangy" guitar sound of fellow rock supergroup Traveling Wilburys and combines it with bittersweet minor key indie/alt instrumentation. All in all, this song is like an indie rock fruit salad - it combines the best flavors of bands with many different approaches to music with delightful results!

"If It Wasn't For Bad" by Elton John and Leon Russell: Never thought Sir Elton would make a grand comeback to rock 'n' roll after the mid-'70s, but after many years, he has! Well, kind of. It still has the trademark piano sound Elton has become known for, but with Leon Russell on board, Elton's latest track gets jazzed up a bit (and even has a brief guitar solo!) With their combined musical efforts, "If It Wasn't For Bad" ends up sounding more like Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, The Band, and Jackson Browne than it does Billy Joel or James Taylor like one might expect at first. Anyone who liked the more upbeat performances on "The Last Waltz" would probably dig this song! I know I did.

"People Say" by Portugal. The Man: OK, first of all, to clear up any confusion you might have, the name of this band IS, in fact, "Portugal. The Man" (complete with the period and the capital "T" in "The"). With a name as quirky as this, I figured that Portugal. The Man, were an indie group, and I was right. However, they are not a folk-rock-y indie like most of the acts that get classified under such a label. In fact, hardcore punk bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Fugazi are some of their biggest influences! However, "People Say" is NOT a hardcore punk song. Instead, it's almost like R & B-inflected indie, with chords that seem to echo The Beatles' "Let It Be" (think of a more laid-back version of Gnarls Barkley). If I had to sum up "People Say" in just a couple words, I'd say that it adds a more unique, almost gospel-influence flavor to the ever expanding world of indie rock!

"The Sweetest Thing" by JJ Grey and Mofro: Much like their '08 adult alt. radio hit, "Orange Blossoms", "The Sweetest Thing" once again showcases the unique brand of R & B, jazz, and blues influence JJ Grey and Mofro have (probably) made trademark in their music. For adult alt. radio stations themselves, "The Sweetest Thing" is like a breath of fresh air! It has a vigorous, youthful toe-tapping energy that the mostly wistful and melancholy lineup of such stations seem to lack (for the most part, at least). Sometimes us R.E.M. and Snow Patrol fans need something to get up and boogie down to to shake off our blues! Songs like "The Sweetest Thing" give us a perfect opportunity to do so!